Indonesian police were soon targeted on Sunday for their role in the tragedy that killed at least 125 people on Saturday at a stadium in Malang, east of the island of Java. This drama, one of the worst ever in a stadium, also caused 323 injuries, according to a latest report. It all started when fans of the local Arema FC football team took to the pitch at the Kanjuruhan stadium, after their team’s defeat (2-3) to that of Persebaya Surabaya, the neighboring city. The stadium held 42,000 people and was full according to authorities. About 3,000 spectators filled the pitch after the match.
“The police went too far,” Arema FC manager Javier Roca told Spanish radio Cadena Ser on Sunday. By watching the footage, the police could have used other methods. A testimony that echoes the description of the scene made by the survivors, or spectators in panic, blocked by the crowd, when the police fired tear gas grenades.
“There was nothing, no revolt”
Footage inside the stadium shows a huge amount of gas and people clinging to the barriers, trying to escape. Others carried injured passersby, making their way through the chaos. “The police threw tear gas and people rushed out, pushing each other, causing many casualties, says Doni, a 43-year-old bystander, who she did not want to give her surname. There was nothing, no revolt. I don’t know what happened, suddenly they fired tear gas. “
Many voices then rose in Indonesia on Sunday to denounce the use of tear gas by the police against the thousands of supporters who had invaded the camp. Police, who described the incident as a “riot,” say they tried to get fans to return to the stands and shot tear gas at the audience after the deaths of two police officers. This caused uncontrolled thrusts and movements of the crowd. Many victims were trampled.
Amnesty International calls for an investigation
Amnesty International has called for an investigation “into the use of tear gas” by the police, and that those who “have committed violations be brought to justice”. The deputy governor of East Java province, Emil Dardak, announced on Sunday evening a downward revision of the budget, which went from 174 to 125 dead, due to double counting. “The death toll today is 125. 124 have been identified and one has not. Some names had been registered twice, “the official told Metro TV.” The players passed with the victims in their arms, the Arema FC manager Javier Roca also confided. It was like an avalanche, everything took on proportions dramatic for the number of people who wanted to flee. “
Sam Gilang, a survivor who lost three friends, described the incident as “terrifying, absolutely shocking”. “People were pushing each other and many were trampled as they headed for the exit,” he said. My eyes burned with tear gas. Fortunately, I managed to climb over a fence and survived. In Jakarta, 300 football fans gathered for a wake in front of the Gelora Bung Karno stadium, the largest in Indonesia. Some sang “killers” and threw fireworks in protest.
The Indonesian security minister reacts
Indonesian President Joko Widodo ordered on Sunday “a full assessment of football matches and security procedures”. He has asked the National Football Association to suspend all matches until “safety improvements” are made. In front of the stadium, charred vehicles, including a police truck, were scattered on the streets on Sunday, testifying to the anger of the population after this tragedy. The Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) made its mea culpa and many reactions came from the shocked world of football.
This disaster is “an unimaginable tragedy,” said the president of the International Football Association (FIFA), Gianni Infantino, while FIFA bans in its recommendations the use of tear gas for crowd control on the pitch. In a televised statement Sunday, Indonesian Security Minister Mahfud MD called on Indonesian police to “identify” those who “perpetrated the crimes”, saying “we must act against them”. “We are asking the national police to find the perpetrators of the crimes in the next few days,” he asked.